Tag Archives: U2

When You’re a Jet Something Something: West Side Story, reviewed.

west-side-story2-1780x1254I brought my folks to Signature Theatre’s reverent, rapturous production of the Broadway classic West Side Story the week before Christmas, but due to vagaries related to two issues falling on holidays between then and now, my Washington City Paper review is only now surfacing. I filed on time, dammit. At least I think I did. Who can remember anything from before Christmas now? Holiday-time usually brings a conventional but deeply satisfying revival of a proven crowd favorite, and this winter, West Side Story is the one to beat.

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U Talkin’ U2 at Unreasonable Length 2 Me? U2 at Madison Square Garden, July 30, 2015, Annotated.

The guy in the silver lame is Mark Baker, aka

Last Thursday, I attended the seventh of U2’s eight concerts at Madison Square Garden, which concluded their U.S. tour. It was my 18th U2 concert since 1997. Here are my notes, assembled in mostly chronological order, which is the most boring possible method of review-writing. Let’s go!

1. Bono took the stage by himself, at the opposite end of the arena from the band. Most of the folks surrounding the B-stage on the floor where we were (though it’s called the E-stage now, being that this is the annoying capitalized iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour) were staring at one of house-right floor entrances to the arena, smart phones at the ready, from the moment Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power” started playing on the P.A.

I don’t like that he enters on his own. It contradicts the “just the four of us” narrative U2 have always fostered, and it’s worth fostering. What other band has stayed intact with its original lineup for just a year or two shy of four decades?

2. My fellow superfans were really nice. We were in the G.A. line ahead of a guy named Bob Springsteen, of the Arkansas Springsteens — he showed me his I.D., unbidden. He was at the show with a pal on this evening but returning with his wife and young daughters, he said, the following night.

So Bob Springsteen was in the house the night Bruce Springsteen joined U2 on stage. (I was not.) I’d been reading rumors of a Bruuuuuce appearance on fan sites for a week, and I figured, accurately, that if he showed up he would join in on “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” which he played with U2 after inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 10 years ago. (He was returning the favor. Bono gave Bruce’s induction speech in 1998.) He also played it with U2 at the 25th anniversary concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. So a not-especially-surprising surprise. Continue reading

Pop Culture Happy Hour: The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Pop-Culture Pariahs

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On this week’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, I join host Linda Holmes and regular panelists Stephen Thompson and Glen Weldon to dissect Joss Whedon’s super-packed super-sequel The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Continue reading

Where Do I Start with Lou Reed?

Lou Reed SET THE TWILIGHT REELING

Lou Reed was one the greatest American artists in any medium. Slate invited me to compile a playlist of 10 of his post-Velvet Underground songs as way for newcomers to sample his 40-year solo catalog. I was honored. You can read that here.

When Rolling Stone reported Lou’s death at the age of 71 yesterday morning — it’s not like I knew him personally, but something about his songwriting, especially on The Blue Mask album from 1982 and everything afterward, makes me feel first-name intimacy with him — I started tweeting my recollections as a longtime admirer. I was introduced to his work and his wry worldview by New York in 1989. I heard the single, “Dirty Blvd.,” on the radio, and I got the CD from the Columbia House mail-order club.

Years later, I took a beach trip to South Carolina for a week with a bunch of friends right after we all graduated from high school. It was my first overnight trip sans adult supervision. I didn’t do any drugs because I just wasn’t interested, but I did buy Reed’s Between Thought and Expression boxed set at a record shop in Charleston during that trip.

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This production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona had too much U2 in it, even for me.

Nick Dillenburg & Miriam Silverman, fine actors in a shaky production

Reviewed for the Washington City Paper.

Now Witness the Firepower of This Fully Armed and Operational Battle Station!: U2 Takes Baltimore Like the Muppets and Leonard Cohen (Separately) Took Manhattan

Why yes, I am fairly pleased with this hed for my DCist review of U2’s visit to Baltimore last night on their stadium-straddling 360 Tour. I can talk your damn ear off about this band, which you know if you’ve known me longer than ten minutes. Now it can be told: U2’s most famous member, whom I had more class than to refer to as “the world’s tallest short person” in my review, is responsible for the title of this very blog.

My confederate Kyle Gustafson did not take the photo above, but he did shoot many excellent photographs at the concert, which I encourage you to enjoy as part of the review or on his own site.

Muse at the Patriot Center. Sorry, that’s MUSE! AT THE PATRIOT CENTER!

It’s almost impossible to imagine England’s glam-bastic future-shock trio Muse peddling their warp-speed, Dark Matter riffs and florid piano interludes anywhere smaller than the Patriot Center, the coziest basketball arena on the itinerary of their U.S. tour. Wembley-packing popular in Europe, they traversed American football stadiums last fall supporting U2, a gig they may have cinched for their ability to make the headliners appear restrained and subtle by comparison.

Subtlety was irrelevant at last-night’s retina-singeing ode to space operatic excess. For the 105-minute pageant to express the band’s apocalypse-is-coming, so-shall-we-rock quintessence any more perfectly would have required giant harvester-like robots to wander into the audience and atomize us with their laser rays. A stage comprised of three telescoping video-cube platforms yawned open to reveal the three band members, lightsabering their way through “Uprising,” the pulsing, ominous opener of their latest album, The Resistance. (This is one band where the titles tell you exactly what you’re in for.) Lyrics “They will not control us! We will be victorious!” flashed as the crowd chanted along, implicitly telling Them exactly where They can cram their . . . well, whatever. Continue reading

U2 360 at FedEx Field: Faraway, So Close!

U2 get anthemic.  Photo by Martin Locraft.

U2 get anthemic. Photo by Martin Locraft.

And that’s just about gonna do it for writing about U2 this year, I think. My review of last night’s U2 360 gig at FedEx Field is up on DCist, with photos by Martin Locraft. Tough love = real love, y’alls.

And I gotta give it up to the Post’s Chris Richards for penning a funny and insightful notice on deadline last night.

Oh, and Did We Mention There’s a U2 Concert Tomorrow Night?

U2 2009

It’s true! If U2’s uninspiring performance of “Moment of Surrender” on Saturday Night Live scared you off, perhaps my Examiner preview, offering a bit of historical context for the 360 Tour, can win you back. Because U2 really, really need the attention.

I’ll reviewing the show for DCist. Meanwhile, my sometime colleague Catherine Lewis digs into the curious phenomenon of a cappella groups covering U2 tunes. She’s a braver woman than I am.

Shut up. You know what I mean.

Discographically Speaking: U2 (part two)

Mr. MacPhisto & U2, 1993

Wherein on the occasion of U2’s latest ginormous roadshow descending upon our Nation’s Capital — well, Landover — your humble narrator attempts to quantify the relative merits of the U2 discography, minus live albums, compilations, EPs, soundtracks, side projects, mixtapes, or bootlegs.

Continuing from yesterday’s lesson RE: U2’s seventh through twelfth-best albums, we resume our countdown with No 6, after the jump.
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Discographically Speaking: U2 (part one)

U2

You might think that assessing the relative merits of every album by my favorite band since childhood would be no thang for a seasoned pro like me. That’s where you’d be wrong, Bono — er, boyo. Rating the U2 catalogue turned out to be as difficult and time-consuming as it is pointless.
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Okay, Bono, Even I Think This Is Pretty Weird

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese agitator for democracy, is now Aung San Suu Kyi, the Halloween mask.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese agitator for Democracy, is now Aung San Suu Kyi, the Halloween mask.

U2’s big — stadiums-only big — tour opens in Barcelona tomorrow night. Continue reading

Secret Machines at the 9:30 Club


This is a couple days old already. Sorry.

New York-based space rock-trio Secret Machines’ new, self-titled third album is strong evidence that in the studio at least, the group hasn’t lost a step despite the departure of guitarist Ben Curtis. His brother, frontman Brandon Curtis, has soldiered on with new axe man Phil Karnats, continuing to layer shimmering guitars and keyboards atop drummer Josh Garza’s bone-crushing, Bonham-esque rhythms, with a newfound focus on tighter song structures. This is good.

Secret Machines have played stadiums with U2 and been compared to Pink Floyd. Alas, at their funereal set at the 9:30 Club Thursday night, they seemed more like the Iron Butterfly of the iPod Age. And while everybody surely loves to hear all17-plus minutes of “In a Gadda-da-Vida” once a year (preferably in the fortnight before Halloween), the interminable new “The Fire Is Waiting” — the whole show, really — recalled that iconic, goofy tune in all the worst ways. Too often it felt like an unbroken, unbearably pompous 90-minute dirge, the luminous textures of the band’s albums lost in a muddy, drony, roar.

The stage was wrapped in what looked like strips of bandage —appropriate for an act that came off as humorless, hidebound and unable to connect. While a few members of the half-empty (well okay, half-full) 9:30 crowd were psyched enough to leap and wave during the chestnuts “Nowhere Again” and “First Wave Intact,” the audience was mostly a sea (or a pond) of heads nodding in solemn semi-communion as they fiddled with their cell phones. Dude, you should have been there!

Worse, some of the those nodding heads were on stage. Garza is fun to watch, mainly for the uncanny way he resembles Animal from The Muppet Show, but Curits was an inert presence. Before kicking off the encore with a (relatively) spare “Alone, Jealous and Stoned” that painfully exposed his vocal limitations, he murmured, “I’m glad you’re still with us.” It was a performance that must have felt like a rehearsal even to him.